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Germany: Polygamy in the Migrant Parallel Society

Ayse F. has a startling story to tell, first told, then with tears, a story of humiliation and injuries: she was the victim of a bigamist for 16 years without knowing it. She is still married to her husband, an Iraqi Kurd. She was “in love forever” with him, and she has four children with him.

At first they got married in Bosnia by the state. Both lived on Hartz IV. However, her husband had considerable additional income from criminal sources. If he sometimes disappeared for days or weeks, Ayse F. was not interested: “A woman has nothing to ask.” Then she received phone calls from an unknown woman who “insulted and insulted” her in Kurdish. In the holy Koran, her husband swore that she was the only woman and soothed the children by saying that “Mom will make it up”.

A multi-year odyssey through women's shelters began - on the run from her violent husband and the telephone terror of the mysterious woman. At the beginning of 2009 she received mail from a Berlin youth welfare office because her husband had not paid any maintenance for two children whom she did not know.

She obtained the phone number of the anonymous caller, pretended to be a man while talking on the phone, and the second wife innocently told her that she had married her husband in an Islamic manner years ago in a Berlin mosque. A blow for her and her children, who have now discovered a second family life on their father's laptop: their father barbecuing and playing with two strangers to them.

Violence, humiliation and reconciliation

Months of violence, humiliation and reconciliation followed until she filed for divorce in 2011. Since then she has lived in constant fear of her husband because, in his opinion, a woman “must not get a divorce”. Ayse F .: “It's about his honor and his property.” He also let her know that he “doesn't care about the divorce by a German court. The only decisive thing is the divorce according to the Koran. And that is how long you are my wife. "

Ayse F. had become a second wife through a so-called imam marriage. These are marriages that clergymen enter into according to Sharia law. Experts such as the Neukölln-based marriage and family counselors Kazim Erdogan and Abed Chaaban estimate that ten to 20 percent of all marriages between Muslims are only concluded religiously. They are legally insignificant, but in the Muslim cultural area they sometimes have a higher social status than state life alliances.

These imam marriages can easily undermine the prohibition of polygamy. Anyone who believes that polygamy is just a hobby of Arab sheikhs and golf potentates is wrong. Polygamy has now returned to the reality of life for Muslim migrants in Germany, not officially, but in secret.

Polygamy - 30 percent of all Arab men?

According to the observations of Claus Röchert, head of the Working Group on Integration and Migration at Berlin Police Directorate 5, polygamy is a common phenomenon in the “Arab community, especially among Lebanese and Palestinians”. The Palestinian supervisor of young offenders, Nader Khalil, assumes that 20 percent of his friends in Berlin have a second wife.

The Lebanese family helper Abed Chaaban in Neukölln estimates that 30 percent of all men of Arab origin in Berlin are married to two women - one state-owned and the other Islamic.

According to the experience of Röchert, Chaaban, the Flensburg family lawyer Sabine Scholz and a Neukölln men and fathers self-help group, the number of plural marriages has even increased in recent years. Nevertheless, many marriages are by no means a mass phenomenon, but also “not isolated cases” anymore.

There are five reasons why polygamy is taking root in this country despite the ban. First: Sharia tolerates multiple marriages with up to four women. Second: In the anonymity of modern society and the diversity of partner relationships, living together with several women or families can be well camouflaged.